As I write this, it’s 12:47 am, May 16, and I am so exhausted I can’t sleep. I’m remembering everything I experienced on May 14th and May 15th at Karameh and trying to provide you with my account of what happened as I witnessed.
May 14th, 2011
I know that May 14th is not the day of remembrance of the Nakba and some people might ask why we even attempted to go to the “Israeli” /Jordanian borders on that day. The group we were heading to the borders with had a plan to walk 42 kilometers to the get there so they wanted to start early enough. Doable? Of course not. And so, when the funding was provided for the buses and we all realized that it was practically impossible to walk, we headed to Karameh in both cars and buses at around 12 pm.
Our ride to Karameh was uneventful. As soon as we arrived, and people started gathering together, we realized that our numbers were pathetic. I can’t really say what the exact number was, but I’d venture a guess of 200 people or so. We stayed there for a while, with maybe 10 policemen on alert. Eventually, people were debating whether we should stay or leave.
During our sit-in/ protest at karameh, a few trucks started showing up. The first one to arrive on the scene was a bright yellow truck. As soon as this truck arrived, it headed straight to the police officers and just stayed there. This was around the time when the police officers started telling us that we had to leave. A few minutes later, a couple of silver cars, carrying Jordanian flags and blasting music drove around us a few times and then went and parked behind the police officers. Finally, a couple more trucks arrived and they were all stationed behind the police officers. A man in traditional Arabic clothing came out of one of the trucks and said a few words to the police officer. At that point, the police officer told us that we had 10 minutes to leave because after that he would not be able to protect us.
Most of the buses started heading out slowly and we left behind them. But apparently, some people refused to leave. This was when one female reporter for Al-Quds TV channel and two demonstrators were attacked by the people in the trucks. They were beaten by the “3gal” which is our traditional headdress.
May 15th, 2011
Now comes the official day of the Nakba, and we finally decided to go to Karameh after we gathered at the Kalouti mosque in Rabieh and we realized that our number was good enough. Protestors started heading down to Karameh from different roads and we all eventually met each other there. In Karameh, I would say there were more than 1000 people. They would gather and disperse, run from the police and head back and finally chant and call for the opening of the borders. You know, the usual.
At some point, one of the trucks I mentioned earlier showed up again and then disappeared (From my field of vision at least). At around 6:30 – 7:00 all hell broke loose. Police started running towards the protestors and firing tear gas. We ran in the opposite direction with our “Hattas” wrapped around our faces and ducked for cover. But you could see people getting beaten with sticks, be them male or female.
We eventually scrambled to the cars and started to head out. We could see around 500 people running on foot from the police with no place to go. The buses that brought them to Karameh had left and all they could do was run on foot. After we started leaving, and I repeat, started leaving, the police ran after our cars and started smashing our windows with batons. They also threw rocks at us and started beating anyone that was running.
People started carrying others into their cars. A small hatchback would carry eight people, a big car would carry 11, a truck would take as many people as it could.. It was chaos.
After we were in the clear, we started to hear of people who were shot by live bullets and people who were left stranded. It was just unbelievable.
Even as I’m writing this account of the events that happened, I know for a fact that I’m not doing them justice. I could not begin to describe the fear in peoples’ eyes and the hurt and panic they were feeling. I can’t begin to describe how I am feeling at this point. I feel numb, I’m in shock. And all I could do is ask why? Why would you attack a TV reporter and a camera man on May 14th? Why would you attack protestors after they were leaving? Why would you shoot people with live bullets?